New Delhi: The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) suffered a setback on Thursday after results from byelections to four Lok Sabha and 10 assembly constituencies showed that it managed to win only one parliamentary and one assembly seat, with a united opposition making inroads.

Although the BJP managed to increase its majority in the Lok Sabha to 273—hovering one above the halfway mark —with its win in Palghar, Maharashtra, it lost two out of the three seats it held in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra.

To be sure, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) continues to enjoy a comfortable majority in the Lower House.

The BJP lost the crucial Kairana constituency in Uttar Pradesh to a combined opposition of Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Congress. This is its third byelection loss to a united opposition after Gorakhpur and Phulpur in March this year.

The fourth Lok Sabha seat, Nagaland, went to the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party, a BJP ally in the North-East.

“The tone of the bypoll results is against the NDA government. We could win only those seats where the party was strong, we lost other seats because of the joint campaign of the opposition and we could not hold those section of people who had come to BJP-NDA during 2014," said a senior BJP leader.

In Maharashtra, an alliance between the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) defeated the BJP in Bhandara-Gondiya while the ruling party was able to retain Palghar.

“The loss of Bhandara-Gondiya was due to the absence of Nana Patole who is strong in the region and had spoken against rural distress. It is possible that he was instrumental in the loss of BJP," the BJP leader added.

Patole resigned his seat and BJP membership in December 2017, citing farmers’ suicides, demonetization and the goods and services tax among reasons.

While the results kicked off celebrations among opposition parties, the key challenge for all parties will be to take these poll alliances ahead in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

The Congress won four out of 11 assembly seats in this round, including RR Nagar in Karnataka where fresh polls were held after the 12 May assembly elections. The challenge for the party now will be to manoeuvre itself as a junior partner in states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh to regional parties such as the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), SP and BSP.

“Today’s result reinforced that whenever the opposition comes together, the BJP gets defeated. It happened in earlier bypolls. We are confident that our alliances in all these states will continue for general elections next year," a senior Congress leader said, requesting anonymity.

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